DARPA Projects to Watch in 2015

The Pentagon’s research and development arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is out with a list of its 10 most popular stories from 2014.

Here at DefenseTech, we want to see more of all of these stories in the New Year. Indeed, we hope to interview the managers, engineers and tinkerers who are working on some of these projects to better understand their potential defense applications.

The following five are the ones we’re particularly excited about in the realm of weapons technology and plan to keep an eye on in 2015:

Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) X-Plane

Like firms and the Army, DARPA wants to develop a new breed of helicopter that can fly as fast as 400 knots, or about 460 miles per hour, and carry a load of at least 40 percent of the airframe’s weight. It plans to review preliminary designs in September 2015, with the goal of selecting one for a prototype that could fly as early as 2017.

Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System (ARES)

Similarly, the agency is exploring the idea of building an unmanned aerial logistics system that could bypass roadside bombs and other ground threats. Last year, it settled on a design from Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works lab for a drone aircraft that could be controlled by troops using mobile phones or rugged tablets.

Ground X-Vehicle Technology (GXV-T)

DARPA also wants a new generation of ground vehicles with more mobility and survivability — but less armor, which “is becoming increasingly burdensome and ineffective against ever-improving weaponry.” It wants smaller, stealthier vehicles that can avoid detection and even attack.


The agency broke ground in 2014 when a 200-pound man climbed a 25 foot wall of glass — while carrying an additional 50-pound load — using paddles inspired by the Gecko lizard. The devices were made with a polymer microstructure developed by Draper Laboratory designed to mimic the adhesive properties found on Gecko toes.

Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO)

DARPA also earlier this year successfully steered .50-caliber bullets fired from a sniper rifle in mid-flight to hit predesignated targets. The special ammunition and guidance system helped “track and direct projectiles to their targets by compensating for weather, wind, target movement and other factors,” according to the agency.

About the Author

Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of Military.com. He can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.
  • Zidllar

    High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS)???

  • Stan

    Where did you get this story from? On the Darpa site these are listed as the most viewed stories of 2014.

  • Fordownr

    I have three little letters for all of these “toys” EMP.

  • GI dude

    No Death Star?

  • Dfens

    The VTOL X-Plane is brilliant, except for not having any interior room to carry anything. Your tax dollars hard at work.

    • rtsy

      The small version made in three weeks doesn’t, but the full-sized version is designed with space in the tail, nose, and midsection for cargo.

      • Dfens

        Right. Those small sized models are so damn deceptive that way. Makes you wonder why engineers even build shit like that. Hell, why even use drawings. We should just go from concept straight to some C-5 sized monster.

  • Loosecannon

    They all look like drone except for the Z-man thing and the Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance .

  • ken

    Would not top heavy 4 wheel tanks tip over easily?

  • @stevemiller98

    If you go back to the DARPA.mil website, these are the only stories (of the top 10) that were remotely related to combat. The others were an improved Internet search tool, an open source catalog of software, a biological technology center, and others related to wounded combatants. My nervous system started to go haywire in the Air Force and left me in constant pain and limited mobility. DARPA is developing a set of treatments for these neurological diseases using direct acting implants to decrease pain and restore normal function (#6 on the list). Unfortunately these will never reach the VA and will be too expensive for civilian healthcare to allow these to see the light of day.

  • ken

    I hope they are using future technology on the armor and suspension.

  • ajaxwinter

    When are we going to take super cavitation more seriously? The Russians and now the Iranians have these 200+ knot torpedoes that could kill our ships and subs. Where’s the U.S. on this? Where are the super cavitation subs????

    • Guest

      From what I noted on the internet the U.S. is looking at them along with the Germans, now how seriously who knows. I think the problem is still guidance and steering, keeping it in the bubble.

    • Dfens

      Cavitation and wing in ground effect have a serious case of “not invented here” syndrome. It is unfortunate because there are far more applications of cavitation than anyone realizes.

  • Christopher

    Anybody know what’s going on with Quick Kill, or the Army somehow screw that up as well?

  • Mahatma Muhjesbude

    When will any of you wake up? This is just the bullshit decoy stuff they let other countries waste their time and resources on trying to steal and replicate so we can kill them easier later. Meanwhile we are working on far, far more advanced stuff simultaneously. Like the new ‘In service’ pulse laser cannon designed to instantly blast anything out of the sky from our newest stealth and super indestructible Navy Destroyers.

    • Bobbo

      What super indestructible maybe destroyers are you talking about. The destroyer that was put out of commission in the Black Sea last year by a Russian Meg using EMP of some type. All weapons and guidance was rendered zero!!!!. It was so bad that many of the officers aboard the destroyer resigned when they return to Port